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‘Behind the Screens: The People of OIT’ is a series that features the people working hard behind the scenes to make OIT run.

Position: Device Support Analyst for Academic User Device Support (AUDS)

Time spent with OIT: Six years

Christian Holder is a man of many talents. After spending 17 years as a mechanic, he moved from the garage to the office, opting to spend his time working with computer parts instead of car parts. But staying true to his roots, along with servicing computers, you can often find him patching and airing up tires, jumpstarting vehicles, and offering expert automotive advice.

What he does for OIT:
Christian’s primary role is to support the Duke University Police Department (DUPD). He also supports Duke Gardens, DKU Appointments, and Global Education and assists with Systems Applications and Products (SAP) issues. Dealing with device support, he sets up and fixes issues with physical hardware such as laptops, desktops, monitors, and more.

When working with the DUPD, Christian assists the Emergency Communications Center—Duke’s 911 call center—with radios and the hospital duress system. He also handles much of DUPD’s onsite hardware and helps manage some of the software that interacts with state agencies such as DCI Omnixx, a cloud-based law enforcement and public safety suite of software solutions designed to collect, analyze, and share critical information to prevent and fight crime and terrorism.

With his mechanic experience and IT skillset, Christian is well-equipped to handle another important aspect of supporting DUPD: the patrol cars. Each car is equipped with a laptop that’s always online, a MiFi—which is a small portable router that serves as a mobile hotspot, and a separate VPN that allows dispatch to communicate with officers.

“It’s kind of the best of worlds,” Christian said. “I get a bit of the automotive. I get a bit of the IT stuff, and I get to combine them.”

While Christian is on a rotation with DUPD and not always on call, he is always prepared to respond.

“In order to better serve the campus and public safety, I react.”

This sense of duty and preparedness comes naturally to Christian. Growing up, he served as a lifeguard and certified first responder, participated in Wake County Search and Rescue, and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol. He and his mother even raised one of the three water cadaver dogs in the country. Working at Duke, Christian is still guided by this desire to serve his community.

“If I can provide something to make someone else’s life easier with IT so that an officer can assist somebody on campus who is in some form of duress, that’s what I live for,” Christian said. “I know if some things aren’t handled properly, the worst-case scenarios can happen.”

How he supports DKU:
OIT has a history of supporting Duke Kunshan University. In August of 2023, Christian traveled with a team of OIT’ers to DKU to assist with the start of the fall semester, DKU’s tenth anniversary, and the opening of DKU’s Phase 2 campus.

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Christian taking a selfie with President Price at the DKU Phase II ceremony.

For part of the four-week trip, the OIT team assisted DKU with setting up their IT infrastructure in their new additions to campus. The team also provided IT support for high-profile Duke personnel. Along with these projects, Christian and other OIT’ers found ways to support DKU Information Technology.

“While OIT is 400+ people plus the other IT staff on campus, DKU has about 30 people,” Christian said. “They look at us for support, so that’s why we go over there. We have the knowledge, and sometimes it helps not only what you know but who you know.”

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Christian standing in front of the DKU Phase II campus in August 2023.

 

What he enjoys about working in OIT:
Christian’s favorite thing about working in OIT is the camaraderie he has with his teammates in AUDS.

“I’ve made lifelong friends since I’ve started here,” Christian said. “I’ve worked with some of the best people I’ve ever worked with in my life. I wish I would have been here ten years sooner.”

Christian shared how he and his colleagues will go out to eat to celebrate each other’s birthdays and how he brings gifts to those celebrating their special day. Outside of work, he and some other members of AUDS and Web Services enjoy going camping or playing games together.

“It’s just a good group of people and an awesome place to be,” Christian said. “I couldn’t imagine anywhere else in the RTP area, doing what I do.”

Christian also appreciates the diversity, openness, and various perspectives within OIT.

“If you come with an open mind, you’ll usually find a solution to your problem pretty quickly,” Christian said.

The impact he’s having at Duke:
Along with supporting DUPD’s IT hardware needs, Christian has worked to upgrade the laptops in their patrol cars to newer models. DUPD also has a new virtual reality system for training, and Christian has assisted with it and bringing newer technology to the department.

Advice for those new to OIT:
“No one expects you to know everything right away, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help or clarification when needed,” Christian said. “It’s better to ask and learn than to struggle in silence. This helps build positive relationships with colleagues and stakeholders that can make your work more enjoyable and productive.”

A fun fact about Christian:
Until recently, Christian was a German citizen. He was born in Nürtingen, Germany, and he and his family moved to the United States when he was about one and a half years old. Over the years, Christian has made multiple trips back to Germany to see his family, the most recent trip after visiting DKU in August. On their return flight, the team had a layover in Germany, and Christian was able to extend his layover by a week to spend time with his family.

When Christian decided to pursue his U.S. citizenship, he worked with Duke Visa Services. They helped put him in contact with an attorney, and he became a United States citizen in December 2022.

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Christian standing in front of an American flag after becoming a United States citizen in December 2022.

 What he’s doing when he’s not at work:
Christian’s vast mechanic knowledge and his love for being outdoors developed into a passion that he and his wife, Lorin, now share—overlanding, or vehicular car camping. When the two have some time off, they enjoy traversing all over the United States in their cherry-red Toyota Tacoma.

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Christian's red Toyota Tacoma with a tent attachment, parked in Redwoods National Forest.

The two began taking these trips in 2022. Using his mechanic skills, Christian added several features to his truck, ensuring that it’s well-equipped to travel long distances and handle any roadside issue that could arise.

From Pike’s Peak to Death Valley and from coast to coast, Christian and Lorin have traveled as far east, south, and west, as well as high and low as one can in the United States.

“Once I got my citizenship, I wanted to see the country that I became a citizen of,” Christian said.

Christian’s bucket list trip is traveling along the Alaska Highway and reaching Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. The trip, which would be about a two-week drive each way, is as far north as one can travel in the United States.

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Christian and Lorin standing in front of the Death Valley sign with their red Toyota Tacoma parked to the side.

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Know someone in OIT with a story worth sharing? Nominate them (or yourself!) by emailing kaylee.wilkinson@duke.edu.